When most people hear I’m a pet photographer, they say something on the order of “Oh that’s so awesome! It must be so much fun to spend time with dogs as a job!”

And they are right– it is an awesome life I get to lead as a pet photographer. But don’t get me wrong– there are hard parts. And one of those is the loss of dogs I get to know and love. Even when they aren’t my own I still feel an attachment and a heartache. This is especially hard when I photograph ill pets. When I meet and photograph them instantly knowing the whole time the clock is ticking.

Legacy Photo Sessions

Legacy sessions are what I formally call the end of life photo sessions. I came up with the name actually from my own dog, Clyde, who passed 1 year, 8 months, and 19 days ago. (Yes, I still miss him daily…)  After we lost him, I kept looking around and seeing memories of him, a legacy he left behind to keep him close to my mind and heart.  Somehow, the word legacy just stuck with me and I realized he was going to leave a mark on something else again– my business. And “Legacy Sessions” were born. He was (and still is) continuing to inspire me.

When I received the call about Toby I knew I had to make time to photograph him right away. He was battling an aggressive form of kidney failure and his Mom was worried about capturing images of him while he was still looking and acting like himself.  My June schedule was already quite full and I was booking weekends into August. But I had a weekday afternoon open that same week which worked out perfectly for photographing Toby with his Mom and sister. I knew she was right that scheduling sooner rather than later was best. I’ve been in situations before where the family held off scheduling the photo session and then the dog passed away, which is so painful for all of us to face.

Photographing Toby

On a perfect June evening I met a handsome white lab named Toby. Toby was the ultimate gentleman… politely waiting for treats, modeling for the entire photo session without a leash, showing off his happy-go-lucky spirit at every click of the camera. He was amazing! I brought some of my usual Zuke’s treats– the good stinky kind– a Toby just loved them, happily doing anything and everything we hoped for.

Toby was loved for 11 years by his mom and 9 years by his sister. His sister, M,  had three prior photo sessions with him, one when she was 2 years old, then 5 years old, and now at 9 years old. M didn’t know Toby was sick. Much like I can imagine many Moms would do, M’s mom wanted to spare her the pain now of knowing what was to come so she could enjoy life with Toby. I felt an extra tinge of sadness both then and now as I think of the adorable bond the two of them shared. My most favorite image of them occurred when M “copied” Toby and stuck her tounge out to pant like him. Every time I see that image I think, “Let me tell you about my best friend…” I phrase which could have been “said” by either Toby or M!

We started the session inside their home which has beautifully decorated in with grays and whites, perfectly complimenting Toby’s coat and accentuating his sparkling eyes. We took some beautiful indoor lifestyle images that were truly touching in their formal living room. (Following this session I decided I need to specifically offer an indoor lifestyle portrait session option. So keep an eye on my website for more details on that!)

After a series of indoor photos and with the sun starting to set, and temperatures a little more manageable, we headed out to the pond in the neighborhood.  There was a beautiful fountain on the pond and the sunlight streaming through the trees was absolutely breathtaking. As a photographer, I couldn’t have hoped or wished for a better dog or environment to work with. We stayed within 10 feet and yet had such a variety of images, lighting, and poses… enough to fill the majority of their 100 page coffee table album! Toby seemed to relish in the sunshine, breeze, and attention.

Following his photo session his mom came into my office for the viewing and ordering appointment and as one part of her order selected a gorgeous coffee table album. She told me Toby had gotten much worse since the photo session itself and that had she waited Toby wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time in front of the camera or handle going outside for photos. Again another blessing that our paths crossed when they did.

Before their order could be delivered, I received an email that Toby had passed away.  His mom said they had to let him go because he was having trouble breathing. My heart sank a little when I read that. Knowing the huge hole Toby left in the hearts of his family and in mine even with knowing him for such a short time. I kept thinking of M and how hard this must have been for her.

The email ended with “Your pictures mean the WORLD to me, I can’t thank you enough. It’s so incredibly hard. I’m so glad we did them when we did. I will treasure them forever. 💖

You can see a video of the coffee table album at the bottom of the post.

I truly could go on and on about this photo session because it was that magical and heartwarming to work with such a sweet dog and his adoring family. I’m thankful we were able to get images of Toby that were so special to all of us.


end of life senior pet photography sesion

lab with kid during pet photo shoot

legacy pet photo session indoor senior dog

black and white photo of little girl kissing lab dog